Golden girl reveals dreams

29 July 2012

SWIMMING: Mrs Lisbeth Trickett, OAM, was readily identifiable among the illustrious company she was keeping today.

She was the one with the wedding ring, talking about her plans to have a baby, and sitting next to the kid who used to ask her for her autograph and had a poster of her on the bedroom wall.

She was reminiscing about what it was like being an Olympic swimmer before she retired, back when she had a different name – Libby Lenton.

Remarkably, though, one thing hadn’t changed - she was a gold medallist again. For the fourth time. Trickett earned this one not as one of the stars of the show that she used to be, but as a heat swimmer for the quartet who delivered Australia’s first gold medal of the Games in the 100m freestyle relay, Alice Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger.

There is, of course, a not-so-subtle distinction to be drawn there and Trickett admitted it was bittersweet to some extent, but that doesn’t mean she was not entitled to feel extremely proud – which she was.

She had succeeded where the great Ian Thorpe and a couple of other big names from the past, Michael Klim and Geoff Huegill, did not. All came out of retirement to try to get to London and only Trickett made it. She will go home with her seventh medal – she already had three gold, a silver and two bronze from Athens and Beijing – and her status as an authentic “great” of Australia’s favourite Olympic sport enhanced.

What’s more, she’s not done yet. In the heady afterglow of the win, she sat with Campbell and Schlanger and another heat swimmer, Yolane Kukla, and told the media that she had enjoyed herself so much she now planned to swim on.

She didn’t say for how long, but despite her newly-acquired image as a bit of a mother figure within the team, she is 27, which is certainly not young for a swimmer but not necessarily all that old, either. So maybe we’ll see her in Rio.

When somebody asked Kukla, who is only 16, about whether the poster is still on the wall – it is, apparently – Trickett laughingly protested that the question would draw attention to the fact that she is 11 years older.

She said she remembered what it was like to be a teenage debutant at the greatest show on earth, namely nervous.

“I was taken aback by the whole experience,” she said. So she prepared herself to play a calming role if the others were too toey this time. Kukla admitted she was so nervous she was almost sick, but the four finalists were totally in control and got the job done brilliantly.

“I was proud to be a part of it,” said Trickett, who was applauded by the others for what they regarded as an important contribution in ensuring they would swim from “pole position” in lane four.

As Trickett pointed out, these girls have all overcome challenges and difficulties to get to London, including some significant health and physical problems, and she was no exception herself, having to lose 10kg to have any chance of making it.

“It’s been an amazing few years to get to this point,” she said.

“With everything that happened yesterday, I am ready to move on to the next journey. I’m committed to keep swimming but I’d like to have a baby.That’s the dream – to have a baby and keep swimming.”

She said it was an “honouring and very humbling thing” to triumph over the hard stuff involved in coming back.

“It makes me want to keep going.  It’s the highs, the lows, the challenges, it’s everything – that’s what I love.

“As much as I would have given anything to be in that final four last night, as bittersweet as it is not to have been, the point is that I’m so committed to my sport again.

“That’s the best thing I could have got out of the whole experience.

“I couldn’t be any prouder to be standing here.”

Ron Reed in London

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